The Gulf County Chamber of Commerce last week began to disentangle from the work of economic development.
The Chamber board, acting in response to a decision by the Board of County Commissioners to separate the consolidation with Gulf County Economic Development Council, voted to exercise a release clause in director Barry Sellers’ contract and, pending legal input, waive confidentiality, non-compete and non-disclosure clauses.
That would hold harmless both the Chamber and Sellers and allow Sellers to enter into a contract with a new Economic Development Alliance.
“Isn’t that the idea, to release (Sellers) so he could go on to the (EDA),” asked board member Sharon Gaskin during discussion of Sellers’ contract.
Sellers was hired to serve as executive director of a consolidated Chamber/EDC model created by the BOCC roughly two years ago.
The BOCC decided late last year to move the EDC back under its umbrella, and put the county administrator as point man for economic development.
Two weeks ago commissioners changed course and decided to restore pledged funding to an EDC and allow Sellers to at least work through the rest of his existing three-year contract.
That decision led to the creation of the Gulf County Economic Development Alliance, Inc.
The new EDA board has been established, said Chamber president Guerry Magidson, who leaves the Chamber board after this month.
Magidson will part of the new EDA board with Wewahitchka banker Jerry Gaskin, contractor Steve Newman, Loretta Costin, director of the Gulf/Franklin campus of Gulf Coast State College and local merchant Anna Duren.
Magidson said the EDA had filed paperwork for incorporation and non-profit status.
He said strategic plans and a budget will be put in place once the BOCC officially signs off on the new EDA operational model.
“Hopefully we will be able to move forward and get some jobs here,” Magidson said.
As part of moving forward, Magidson recommended the Chamber board exercise a 30-day release clause in Sellers’ contract and to waive non-compete and confidentiality clauses in order that Sellers could enter into a similar contract with the new EDA.
“This is all so unsettled,” Magidson said, noting the county has not formally passed along paperwork finalizing the BOCC’s move recent decision on the EDC.
Chamber board members Johanna White and Dewey Blaylock said their heartburn pertained to the provisions in Sellers’ contract with the consolidated Chamber/EDC concerning non-compete and confidentiality clauses.
“The only concern I see is whether the non-disclosure would come back to bite us in the butt,” White said. “I would be hesitant (waiving those provisions) until legal counsel has looked at it and said it was fine.”
Blaylock said waiving those provisions would also have to be reciprocal, in that Sellers must hold the Chamber harmless if the Chamber held Sellers harmless on those provisions.
“Anything I have ever signed, it wasn’t Chamber (business),” Sellers said, saying his focus moving forward will be strictly economic development as Paula Ramsey Pickett slides in as Chamber director.
Magidson, taking the temperature of the Chamber board, said the issue was less releasing Sellers from his contract than ensuring the various provisions covering confidentiality and non-disclosure are addressed to the satisfaction of the Chamber board and Sellers.
“We need to figure out a way to release Barry … so we are not tying his hands,” Magidson said.
The motion that ultimately passed approved the 30-day release from his contract for Sellers and board members approved waiving all confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions provided the Chamber attorney signs off.